Some residents have questions about Emera Maine’s project running new power transmission lines on the northern part of the Knox Road. PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Neighbors leery of power line upgrade

BAR HARBOR — Residents have some concerns about new power transmission lines being installed on Knox Road, a group told officials from power company Emera Maine at a meeting last week. It is too late to make any changes to the route of the lines, the officials said, but other adjustments may be possible.

The residents, including Diane Cousens and Bob and Sheila Bailey, said they were concerned about how many and which trees would need to be cut, anchor points for the new poles, and whether Emera has accurate records of property lines.

“I’m very leery,” Cousens said. “I’m afraid I’ll be gone and come home some day and all my trees will be cut. I don’t feel I’ve gotten a straight answer.”

The decision to run the transmission lines between the substation at Burn’s Corner (the intersection of Knox and Gilbert Farm roads) and Route 3 was made in consultation with a community advisory group that met in 2014 and 2015, Steve Sloan of Emera told the group.

An official complaint filed with the Public Utilities Commission asked Emera not to run the lines down the Crooked Road. “All parties agreed to close that complaint in June of 2015,” Sloan said.

Many of those who live on Knox Road between Route 102 and Gilbert Farm Road were involved with the advisory group and/or the PUC complaint. When Emera decided to send the lines the other direction, north on Knox Road to Route 3, some of the people with property on the northern part of the road were surprised.

“I didn’t know anything about this until I was mowing my lawn one day this past summer and [Emera Transmission Planner] Dave Perkins drove in my yard,” Cousens said. “I’ve lived on the road 50 years, and the property goes back in my family 200 years.”

“All indications were that Emera Maine has community support” for the Knox/Route 3 route, he said. “We’re now learning that we didn’t reach everyone. I apologize, and I hope we can make up for that.”

Dessa Dancy praised the advisory group process. “It was intense and exhausting, but Emera listened,” she said. “It was real collaborative problem solving. So tonight we’re asking: Can we do a little bit more problem solving?”

Sloan said Emera is not open to re-routing the lines, but could discuss moving some poles to the other side of the road and other options to limit tree-cutting and visual disruption.

“If we need to move poles to make it better for folks, that’s what we’ll do,” Sloan told the Islander Friday.

Engineer Jim Brooks, who contracts with Emera on the project, said he understood concerns about tree trimming. “There are a lot of trees, and this is a very narrow road,” he said.

He told the group about a “bundled design” for power lines, which reduces the need for large cross-pieces at the top of the pole. “It gives the pole a very slim profile. You only have to trim two to three feet behind the pole. You have to trim more often, but it can really help preserve the rural character of a road like this.”

Brooks said Emera has hired a surveyor and done title research for the affected properties. “Mr. Bailey brought up some good points. Not all the property pins were evident or there were questions about them.”

Emera has asked some property owners for permission to place anchor points for the new poles on their property, beyond the right-of-way in which the poles themselves sit.

“If the line is straight, no guying or anchoring is needed,” Sloan said. “But in most cases, the anchorage stands off of the town property and onto the private property. That’s where we seek to get an easement.”

He said Emera also can work with property owners on whether or not to put a plastic sleeve (yellow or another bright color) on the guy wires connecting anchor points to the poles.

Some of the group said the new transmission poles are taller than the existing poles on the road, which carry only distribution wires.

“The town land use ordinance states I can’t have a 40-foot flagpole in my yard. How is it you folks can have 50-foot poles?” Cousens asked.

Town Planning Director Bob Osborne said utilities such as power poles are not expressly exempt from that height rule, but they are reviewed using a different process.

Emera applied for and received a permit for the poles on Knox Road, a town road, in October. Per the Town Council’s utility location permit policy, the Public Works director has authority to approve or deny the application if no councilor asks to put the issue on the agenda for a council meeting.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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